Art Review: Juergen Teller – Woo! @ ICA

Where do you draw the line between fashion and art? Arguably it’s getting blurrier with both industries possessing sensationalist and provocative practitioners. Juergen Teller is a photographer with a foot in each world and this latest exhibition contains highlights from his wide and varied portfolio.

Teller’s duality is reflected in his work. Sometimes he’s Teller the showman shocking us with nudity and catching our attention with celebrities and his oddball humour. At other times he’s Teller the artist, showcasing subtler and more contemplative works.

His nude self-portraits are embodiments of his quirky humour, which largely fell flat on us. The celebrity works also feel a little clunky – one of his most famous series is of Vivienne Westwood seemingly revelling in her nudity, but what does this show us? That a woman who works in fashion is comfortable with nudity? No surprise there. The one celebrity image we did like was of Kate Moss dumped into a wheelbarrow, a poignant reflection on how our consumerist celebrity culture will deal with her once she’s deemed ‘past it’.

The less sensationalist works were the ones we enjoyed the most. An octopus lying alone on a bed hints at the fetishes associated with these animals without spelling it out, and has a much greater impact than any of the images featuring actual nudity. There’s also a great photo of a seemingly bedridden elderly man with a cake and a whole host of balloons. Despite their presence  he’s not in a celebratory mood and looks up listlessly as if he’d rather be anywhere else, yet resigned to his fate that he can’t get away.

Teller’s photographs of celebrities and cute animals are certain to attract lots of visitors, but it’s the subtler and less sensationalist pieces that deserve the most attention.

Juergen Teller: Woo! is on display at the ICA, The Mall, SW1Y 5AH until 17 March. Admission is free.

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